Here’s some surprising end-of-2020 good news: books are doing . . . well? According to NPD BookScan, unit sales of print books in the United States rose 8.2% in 2020. Units hit 750.9 million this year—57.2 million up from last year. This is fairly surprising, given the pandemic was expected to take a huge toll on sales; but online sales and sales through non-bookstore outlets offset the losses suffered by physical retailers.
And there’s even happier news from across the pond: the Booksellers Association announced that despite the pandemic, the number of independent bookstores in the UK and Ireland has grown for the fourth year in a row, rising from 890 shops in 2019 to 967 shops at the end of 2020. Said Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association, “Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating.”
But just because book sales are up doesn’t mean independent bookstores are reaping the benefits, and just because indie bookstores open doesn’t mean they’ll stay open without support. 44 indie bookstores in the UK closed this year, and in the US, more than one independent bookstore closed each week since the pandemic began. As the pandemic continues well into 2020, indies will continue to rack up the losses from shuttering their in-person storefronts, the cost of mailing books to customers, and a strained supply chain including shipping issues and printing backlogs. If you feel like helping an indie out: check out these ways to support independent bookstores during the pandemic.